In this eight-week course, we’ll trace the lineages of Dark Academia, the genre and the aesthetic to discover how they shape our understanding of knowledge, power, pleasure, and violence while looking chic as hell. 

If Dark Academia Instagram has your number,

If your copies of The Secret History, His Dark Materials, and A Discovery of Witches are falling to pieces

And if thinking about education makes you want to sing and scream simultaneously,

Dark Academia: Foundations is for you.

Hi, we're Dr. Sara Cleto
and Dr. Brittany Warman

And we’ve long been embroiled in a torrid affair with academia.

In other words, we love it, we hate it, we know it’s bad for us, but it’s just so pretty, you know?

On the one hand, we believe profoundly and unironically in the power of education. Words, books, knowledge? Literally the stuff our lives and livelihoods are made of. 

But we’ve also seen and felt the way academia can be exclusive, silencing, and exploitative.

And yet we love a good #mood, especially if it involves old libraries, (neo)Gothic architecture, and a fetching scarf.

It’s complicated.

And Dark Academia can cut to the heart all of this. The beauty, the power, the possibility, the words, and the silences in between.

You absolutely don’t need a background in academia to take this course (although everyone from enthusiastic freshman to escapees from that world are super welcome). All you need is an interest in Dark Academia, a curious mind, and a sense of humor!

Dark Academia: Foundations is both revelry and critique. Where did this genre come from? What about the aesthetic? Where does Dark Academia really miss the mark and where does it get it right? And what can it tell us about what we value and what secrets are still lurking in the basement, underneath those pretty columns and Gothic windows?

This course is closed for enrollment.

Please Note:

For this course, you will need to borrow or purchase -

  • Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos (1782) - You only need to read Volume One (the first 150 pages or so) but if you want to read the whole thing, rock on.
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1890)
  • Maurice by E.M. Forster (1931-71)
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt (1992)

What Are We Covering?

Please note: All talks are recorded and will have a replay option!

What is Dark Academia?

Pre-Recorded: Available Wednesday 12/13

What exactly do we mean by “Dark Academia?” And what kind of history and subtext does “dark” evoke? Is Dark Academia a genre or an aesthetic? What do?? We got you. In this introductory talk, we’ll lay out some key terms, themes, and contradictions within Dark Academia.

Aristocrats Behaving Badly: Dangerous Liaisons

LIVE: Wednesday 12/20 at 7PM ET

You know how people love to gossip and speculate about royalty and the super rich? Especially when they behave extremely poorly? This week is about that part of the lineage of Dark Academia. Why are we so fascinated by aristocrats behaving badly?

The Aesthetic: The Picture of Dorian Gray

LIVE: Wednesday 1/3 at 7PM ET

Is there anything more perfect than Oscar Wilde and The Picture of Dorian Gray? No. There is not. And for our purposes this week, we’ll explore how the book’s art, artifice, passion, and amorality are a central source of the aesthetic and ideals that make up Dark Academia.

Taboos at School: Maurice

LIVE: Wednesday 1/17 at 7PM ET

Maurice is much less well-known than some of EM Forster’s other books (A Passage to India, A Room with a View) but it's often cited as a key text in the lineage of Dark Academia. Deemed unpublishable during the author’s life, Maurice introduces the school as the locus for secrets and taboos.

The Dominoes Fall: The Secret History

LIVE: Wednesday 1/31 at 7PM ET

This is it. The book that gets labeled as the first true Dark Academia novel. We’ll talk about how it puts together the pieces of the Dark Academia lineage, why it works, and how it establishes and solidifies the conventions for the genre and the aesthetic that have held for the last three decades… and we’ll think about where we’re going next!

Want to see an example of our teaching style?
Click here to check out one of our FREE lectures on YouTube!!

What's Included?

  • Four LIVE video lectures with us that you can participate in live or watch later, as you please, during which we'll talk about the week's readings and check in with you! Our lectures and discussions are college-level… but definitely not snooze fests! During these live talks, we'll support you two-on-one, answering questions and diving deep into how the readings can help you re-story your week. These lectures will air every Wednesday at 7PM ET via Crowdcast and recordings available anytime after each talk!

  • One introductory recorded lecture where we discuss everything you need to know to get started thinking about Dark Academia!

  • Four bonus movie nights where we'll chat about a few crucial Dark Academia films (but like in a chill slumber party kind of way!)

  • Discussion questions for learning and self-discovery will be provided via PDF (with a forum on the same Teachable page for comments) and on the Facebook group. You are also free to email us directly with your answers if you don't want to share with the whole group! These questions will help guide your reflections and determine how the material we discuss applies to your own journey

  • We've also added a private forum on Teachable, on each Discussion page, as another place to answer the Discussion Questions!

  • Five Gorgeous "Grimoire Pages," beautifully designed PDFs that you can print and make part of your own spell/course notebook! They also summarize each lesson

  • Access to our private Facebook group just for members of "Dark Academia: Foundations," always one of the best parts of any Carterhaugh course! While participation in the course Facebook group is optional, we have an amazing community of kind, creative, and very smart students, and the discussions that unfold in this space are always a delight and incredibly supportive. In fact, we learn new things from our students every time!

This is for you if:

You’re down for a lot o’ reading

You are positively enchanted by so much about Dark Academia AND

You think learning about the power and problems that underpin the genre is important, too

This is probably not for you if:

You don’t want to read some big honking books (Caveat: if you’re genuinely happy to hear all about books you haven’t read and have the ending completely spoiled, then you are very welcome, too!)

You only want to revel in the cool parts of Dark Academia without thinking about how the sausage (i.e. empire, colonialism, misogyny) is made

We’ll be candid here - this course is definitely not for everyone. But if it’s for you, it’s really going to be for you. If you love reading and thinking about systems of power and a college library is your idea of paradise and you honestly just kind of want to roll around in a pile of damask and vellum and perfume and ink stands, welcome, friend!

BONUS: 4 Movie Nights!

Since we’re giving you two weeks to read each book for this course, on the “off” weeks, we’re going to have MOVIE NIGHTS. We’ll host a chat on Discord as we hit “play” together and discuss how horrifying the painting in Dorian Gray is and how cool Jenna Ortega is when she plays the cello in Wednesday (#hightheory) This is intended to be a very low-key and fun way to hang out between the more structured talks. These are not additional lectures, and they’re completely optional. Just hanging out, watching movies. We recommend pjs and your drink of choice. 

We’ll be 100% transparent with you. We’ve seen all these movies/ episodes, but we haven’t watched some of them for about 15 years. We have a feeling that Cruel Intentions may have aged poorly. But these are all texts that we think are crucial to the cultural perception of Dark Academia, over a very wide span of time, and we think this will be a useful and probably occasionally hilarious way to expand our collective understanding of Dark Academia.

Note: You will need to buy/ borrow/ stream these yourself and be prepared to hit “play” at 7PM! Our chat on Discord is text only, no video streaming of us or the films.

  • Cruel Intentions (1999) - LIVE 12/27 7PM ET
  • Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) - LIVE 1/10 7PM ET
  • Maurice (1987) - LIVE 1/24 7PM ET
  • Wednesday, episode 1 (2022) - LIVE 2/7 7PM ET


"Um, what exactly IS Carterhaugh?" - The Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic is an award-winning online school dedicated to classes on fairy tales, folklore, and all things fantastic. It was created by Sara and Brittany in 2016 as a place for those who dreamed of elven battles while studying economics, those who have always sworn they could see ghosts, and those who longed for a school of magic to send them an unexpected acceptance letter. We aim to use our knowledge and passion for these subjects to share their wonder, solidify their importance in society, and spread a bit of magic into the world. Want to know more? Check out our About page here!

"What if I can’t look at any of the materials that day / can't come to the live lecture?" - You do NOT have to watch the videos on any specific date – they are yours to view whenever is best for you! This is one of the many reasons why online courses work so well – they can fit everyone’s schedule :). The recordings of each live lecture will remain up throughout the course, so you can catch up whenever you'd like!

“I’m just a Dark Academia fan. I don’t want to ruin my enjoyment with a bunch of academic stuff.” - We are the last people in the WORLD who would ruin your enjoyment of literature!! That said, this course isn't going to shy away from the more problematic aspects of the genre, and you deserve to know that going in. We're going to have a ton of fun - but we're going to talk about some serious stuff too.

“Guys, I love this, but money is SO tight right now….” - We understand this feel so hard. Money is tight for so many. This is why we’ve made this course as affordable as possible AND packed in all the enchantment, stories, and community you crave right now. We're also offering three different payment plans (and an early bird deal!) to help you find an option that works. Our school is an investment, and it’s one that you deserve - we know our community and the magic we make together is worth it, and we would love for you to join us.

“How involved are you guys? Is this just a thing where I get access to a bunch of stuff and then good luck?” - NOPE! We are 100% involved in our courses from start to finish. Our students always rave about how accessible we are, how quickly we respond, and how we make everyone feel welcome in our school. We’re always jumping in to answer questions and offer encouragement in our private course Facebook group, and we’re also available via e-mail anytime you need help with anything (or just want to share an insight privately with us!)

“I hate Facebook. Do I HAVE to participate?” - The private Facebook group is really how the course community comes together. Discussion is incredibly active, people are always extraordinarily kind, and it’s seriously like no other discussion form we have ever seen. So while it is absolutely not required, it really does add to your enjoyment of the course if you participate there! We’ve had students make fake names just for our courses before though, so you don’t have to embrace all of Facebook to be a part of our private group. All of this said, if you really, really don’t want to be a part of Facebook in any way, you are free to simply enjoy the community in the live lectures, post comments on the Teachable forum on the Discussion page, and talk to us one-on-one via e-mail if you have any questions, want to respond to discussion questions, or have any other thoughts you want to share!

"What if I hate this? Is there a refund policy?" - We truly believe in the magic of what we're offering, so we guarantee our courses. If you participate wholeheartedly in the first week, and if you do the work and honestly don't feel like you're getting any value from the experience, please write to [email protected] by midnight on December 21st, 2023 with your answers to the reflection questions to receive a full refund.

As always, if you have additional questions at any time, don't hesitate to get in touch with us at [email protected]!

This course is closed for enrollment.

Please Note:

For this course, you will need to borrow or purchase:

  • Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos (1782) - You only need to read Volume One (the first 150 pages or so) but if you want to read the whole thing, rock on.
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1890)
  • Maurice by E.M. Forster (1931-71)
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt (1992)

Okay, time for some real talk...

Our community - the students and friends and magic seekers that have found their way into our courses - have been the biggest surprise and the best part of Carterhaugh. It's not something we anticipated, but it's not an exaggeration to say that it's why we're still here, teaching courses online in a job that's better than anything we could have imagined. It's because of YOU.

If you want connection, if you want to hang out and learn in a low-key way with other wonderful people, this community is for you. If you love fairy tales, and you're looking for others who are enthusiastic, creative, imaginative, and kind, welcome home. 

Carterhaugh grew from our love of fairy tales and our own friendship with each other. Carterhaugh is still here and thriving because of the what came after: our community.

If You've Read This Far...

If you've read this far, clearly something about our school resonates for you. You feel it in your spirit.

You can be the magical soul you want to be.
Art and stories can help you get there.